I think the phrase goes that if you keep making the same mistake, don’t expect a different outcome. I invite you to ponder this in the wake of Nigel Davies’ departure as Director of Rugby at Gloucester.
No-one is hiding from the fact the season has been below expectations. Finishing ninth in a league of 12 would not be seen as acceptable, especially after the previous campaign where, as Davies himself pointed out last August, Gloucester’s points tally
during his first season at the helm had increased more than any other team.
What fans have witnessed is a consistent inconsistency, although some factors kept re-occurring. Gloucester collected 20 yellow cards,
the highest of any club, as well three of the seven red cards across the Premiership during the season. At least they were top of one table.
As a consequence of playing so often a man (or two) short, they conceded 60 tries. Only Worcester and Newcastle conceded more, and the home form was, to say the least, brittle. Six home defeats out of 11 didn’t please the Shed.
Not to worry though, because the heavy artillery are coming. Afoa, Hibbard, Galarza, Palmer, Laidlaw – all internationals – as well as a crop of new faces from the Championship and the Pro 12 who you would expect to play in the Amlin Challenge Cup, the LV Cup and act as back up in the Premiership.
All of these men were signed by Davies, presumably believing in his vision for the club, and for them as individuals. The thing is Davies is no longer in situ.
Repeatedly, and rightly, I heard fans express surprise at his departure. He still had a year left on his contract,and the common thread to each opinion was that this was to be a season where, at last, Davies had the team he wanted.
When he arrived in 2012, the former Wales centre made the point that in the summer of 2013 he could only tinker so much with the squad because of the contractual position of the squad he inherited. 2014, he said, would be the time for change. He wasn’t wrong there.
So here are Gloucester going over similar ground for the third successive appointment. When Nigel Melville left in May 2005, he had assembled
his squad for the following season. The same was true for Dean Ryan in June 2009, and when Bryan Redpath departed two games before the end of the season in 2012….well, you know where I’m going.
I accept that Ryan and Redpath were internal appointments, and that they may have had some input into the recruitment but they were not the man carrying the can. Where I think you’d agree is that here is another appointee who will start work with a squad which isn’t made up of players chosen by him.
All of which makes the timing of this decision very odd. Surely Nigel Davies deserved to get into the new year before the Board made a call. They could warn him that if things didn’t improve, there would be no new contract in the summer of 2015.
Breeze out of the Amlin Challenge Cup group stages, and sit in the top six of the Premiership, and Davies might well have said “I told you” once he got the players he wanted in. Anything less than that, and he’d have feared the worst.
For those with longer memories, Barry Corless, Richard Hill and Philippe Saint-Andre all left Gloucester in February. In my view, Davies deserved
until then, but he wasn’t given the time so the search starts for his successor. This cut-throat approach has left the club spinning in ever decreasing circles, as the next new man tries to get across his own personal philosophy which may or may not fit the squad of players he’s been left.
It could well be “another” season of re-building, as the leading clubs power over the horizon.
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